Menopause refers to the period of time in which women experience the end of menstruation and fertility. Natural menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Menopause is a condition, not an illness, and it is important to remember that every woman’s menopause experience is unique.
There are a variety of symptoms associated with menopause; some women experience most of these symptoms, others have no symptoms. Hot flashes are by far the most common menopause symptom. Other symptoms include night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, depression or anxiety, urinary issues, headaches, fatigue, and more.
Women are not always prepared for menopause, and if symptoms are severe they can make daily life challenging. The constant discomfort of hot flashes, vaginal dryness, headaches, and other symptoms combined with insomnia and fatigue can lead to job or relationship stress and result in anxiety and/or depression. Women whose quality of life is diminished by menopause should know that they are not alone, and they have options when making choices about treating their menopause symptoms.
Conventional treatment usually revolves around hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT can be effective but comes with an increased risk of breast cancer and other forms of cancer, and frequently causes side effects like migraines, nausea and weight gain. For women with a history of breast, uterine or cervical cancer, HRT may not be an option at all.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including acupuncture and herbal medicine, are safe, effective alternatives to HRT. And TCM has no side effects or cancer risks. Acupuncture helps women feel like themselves again by restoring hormonal balance and reducing the severity of common symptoms.
Acupuncture helps menopause symptoms in the following ways:
1. Acupuncture can reduce hot flashes
Hot flashes refer to a sudden, temporary onset of heat, sweating, and sometimes flushing of the skin. It isn’t clear yet what exactly causes hot flashes, but scientists believe that the reduced level of estrogen that occurs as the ovaries lose function during menopause affects the ability of the body to regulate temperature. Eventually the adrenal glands will take over the production of estrogen, but during menopause hot flashes can be extremely debilitating.
Acupuncture can help reduce the frequency of hot flashes. A 2016 study published in the journal Menopause found that women who received 20 acupuncture treatments over a six-month period had a third less hot flashes and night sweats than the control group. Earlier studies have shown that receiving acupuncture twice a week can reduce hot flashes by up to 50%.
2. Acupuncture can help vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness can make intercourse painful. It can also be uncomfortable during daily life, as some women experience chafing or tearing as they move or walk. Once again, reduced hormones levels are believed to cause vaginal dryness during menopause. The same hormones are likely responsible for decrease in libido.
Estradial is a type of estrogen than is responsible for the health of vaginal and ovarian tissue, and many other tissues in the body including the bones and the brain. Acupuncture has been shown to increase the level of estradiol in blood serum.
A French study found that acupuncture can raise estrogen levels to the same degree as HRT. Women in that study also reported improvement in vaginal dryness and an increase in libido, and a reduction of symptoms overall.
3. Acupuncture can help with depression and anxiety
Dealing with ongoing menopausal symptoms is a challenge that can cause anxiety and depression. Furthermore, these conditions have been linked to declining hormones just like most symptoms associated with menopause.
Supporting hormonal balance with acupuncture and herbs helps to alleviate depression and anxiety during menopause. Acupuncture has been found to be as effective as antidepressants for depression in women in general, and depression and anxiety are less likely to recur when treated with acupuncture than with standard pharmaceutical treatment.
In general, menopause symptoms improve along with overall wellbeing. Acupuncture and herbal medicine enhance physical and emotional health, sleep quality, and immune function and aid in the reduction of stress to create balance as the body performs the natural process of menopause.
Your journey through menopause is part of your own unfolding story. At Tara Diaz Wellness, women are encouraged to be active participants in their health. Contact the office or schedule an appointment online to discuss how acupuncture can support you as you move through menopause and on to your next adventure.